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Brown Man's Burden
By Ginger_Ale at 2008-11-24 13:55

General Information:

  • Name of Scenario : Brown Man's Burden
  • Final Score : 25.0/30
    (Breakdown: 0-10 terrible /11-15 Average/ 16-20 Good/ 21-25 Excellent/ 26+Best possible)
  • Type of Scenario :Historical
  • Name of Author: Carl Fritz
  • Name of Reviewer: Morten Blaabjerg

Summary of Scenario:

Pile on the brown man's burden, and try and claim all of Africa for your nation, before the others do!

Playability - Section Sub-total: 5/5

This scenario is a personal favorite of mine, because it is very fun to play. It is not revolutionary, by any means, but a good, classic scenario, using most of the classic Civ2 rules in order to portray the theme. The theme is the European "Scramble" for Africa, from roughly 1890-1900, where almost all major European nations in one big rush claimed parts of the African interior in search of trade opportunities and imperial prestige.

The scenario extends this time frame a bit, so it runs from 1886 to 1914 (breakout of World War I). This is quite appropriate, in my opinion. It could even have started earlier, with fewer cities in possession of the European nations. As the scenario starts off, the European nations have a fair share of Africa to begin with, which leads on to a "industrial war" playing approach, rather than a "seek and conquest" playstyle. There are a great deal of African tribes left for bidding, but not so many as one could have expected. Afterall, this is a huge continent, with more unexplored regions than anywhere else in the world. So the included African tribes are a little disappointing at the outset. But rather quickly it becomes one European nation watching the others every move. And this makes for an exciting game, and is captured very well.

The tribes are the English, Germans, Italians, Mahdists, Ethiopians, French, and Portuguese. As well as barbarians simulating the lesser colonial powers, as well as the savage tribes in the interior. I was personally a little disappointed that the Belgians was left with the barbarians, as the Belgian king Leopold II was very much an active player in the partitioning of Africa, and very much showed the example for others with his overtly ambitious projects in the Congo Free State. But I can live with this. The included African tribes, especially the Mahdists and the Ethiopians, is set up strategically superbly, and is a really hard nut to crack for the European tribes. Very challenging, and quite realistically set up.

Units - Section Sub-total: 5/5

Most of the units are very clearly set up as either defensive or offensive units, and a few in between. This is very intelligently done, so that there are very few units you will choose not to build. I picked my favorites, though. Some units are events generated and nation specific. Germans get "preussers", English "gold-diggers" -and the French get "nameless men" from the foreign legion. Some units, like the explorer, is most useful in the beginning, but useless later in the game. I would personally have liked to see a more offensive explorer type a la H.M. Stanley.

One favorite tactic of mine, was the Howitzer-Maxim Gun-Engineer tactic. In order to get close enough to take any of the cities in this game, without too many casualties, you need to carefully position units in fortresses along with high-defensive units such as veteran Gatling Guns or Maxim Guns. Otherwise those Mahdist and Ethiopian Horsemen will keep coming forever charging, and you will lose your weak-defendants on end. As you can stack units in the fortresses, you can actually win wars without even a single casualty, using this strategy. Railroads speed up this approach, and proves extremely beneficial, as always.

The strategy and combination/balance of units is in my opinion superb. Graphics wise the units are very nicely done.

Research - - Section Sub-total: 4/5

The tech tree was partly altered to suit the theme, while most of the classic tech tree remains unaltered. The rate for tech development was slowed somewhat, to a nearly perfect level, that suits the game. I noticed something funny about the cathedrals, and I'm not sure, but it seems to be an incident of "monotheism" not correctly applied to the building of cathedrals, which makes these dysfunctional. But as said, I am not sure, and I haven't checked, as it is not so great a problem, when the game plays and you forget things like this. And it could be intentional. Islam was in many places much more successful than the Christian missionaries proved to be; I usually built Mosques instead (Coliseum), which work out perfectly. There are a bunch of wonders as well in strategically placed cities, as well as a few still buildable, including "Stanleys Expeditions" (a free advance), etc. All seem to work quite balanced, and add to the atmosphere of it all.

Map & Terrain - Section Sub-total: 3/5

I wasn't so impressed with the map, but it works and looks ok. There are a few new graphics which look quite good, including the mountains, deserts and hills. And some that look a little out of place. While the setup geographically might be slightly disappointing, the strategical setup is much better. It takes some consideration as to how to conquer cities that lie in the middle of the jungle, with no roads etc. I would personally have liked to see more difficult strategical set-ups with use of the terrain, like the one in the Sudan and Ethiopia, which is set up superbly using the mountain ranges as an effective barrier for easy European conquest. So that the geography of the continent would constantly prove a challenge to the European nations, like was the case historically. Railroads somehow seem to make it a little too easy. -And yes, there were railroads built in Africa during this period, but only with great difficulty, because workers were lazy, and the sicknesses and hazards from opening up the interior proved a tremendous challenge. Another approach could have been sailable rivers, on which you could launch steamers to control an area, which was used historically on the Nile, as well as the Congo, to reach the interior.

Care & Details - Section Sub-total: 4/5

Carl Fritz must be said to be a veteran in the field of scenario design, and this scenario proves this too. As said, this scen is enjoyable, as well as challenging and balanced. But it is also full of all kinds of surprises and nit-bits of humor, including the altering of the advisors, and the icons are appropriately changed, where needed. There are a load of random events which replay some of the great incidents of the "Scramble", like the Kitchener campaign against the Mahdists, the Boer War etc. Most of these events doesn't have a major impact on gameplay, though, and seldom lead to conquest on part of the barbarians.

Originality and Technical Proficiency - Section Sub-total: 4/5


Overall Assessment and Other Points of Interest:

I just loved the sound of the native spearmen attacking, which is completely novel to me, and really make my day. Other sounds are more common gunshots and explosions, but sampled too by Carl himself. I also credit Carl for keeping the file size down, by using a sound.bat to copy the sound files between directories.

It all comes together quite seamlessly. This is a classic Civ2 scenario, which plays very well, and accomplishes what I guess the author wanted. To simulate the "Scramble" in a classic Civ2 context. Technically, it has the touch of a proficient hand, who knows very well what it is doing, and so doesn't feel the need to rearrange everything in the game engine, to accomplish his needs. You still know that this is Civ2, the time frame and the setting is just a little different. No need for all brand new complex tech trees or multi-events files. So, while this scen might not be the top notch of originality, it is solid, entertaining work.

Within the frame of Civ2, this is a superb classic scenario, which should not be missed.


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